With shelfie-worthy packaging and a focus on intriguing ingredients like snail mucin and mugwort, Korean skincare has been the subject of our fascination for years. In fact, K-beauty has drastically changed the skincare realm over the past decade.
In this fast-paced, ever-changing industry, however, skincare trends come and go. Will this year’s “7 Toner Method” have a place in our routine next year? Will there be a continued focus on upkeeping a healthy microbiome?
To answer these questions and more, we called upon four experts to share all the upcoming Korean skincare trends of 2023.
- Korean skincare trends 2023: Effective products that minimise wastage
- Korean skincare trends 2023: The rise of clean, vegan beauty
- Korean skincare trends 2023: New naturally derived ingredients will surface
- Korean skincare trends 2023: Integrating potent ingredients into gentle formulas
- Korean skincare trends 2023: At-home beauty devices are becoming more popular
- Korean skincare trends 2023: Supporting the skin's natural barrier
- Korean skincare trends 2023: Niacinamide and ceramide will take the spotlight
Korean skincare trends 2023: Effective products that minimise wastage
Since the beginning of 2021, beauty enthusiasts have deviated from their multi-step Korean skincare routine to one that’s simpler and more streamlined.
According to Jungmin Lee, Founder of Ksisters, this pared-back approach is likely “due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wearing of masks.”
However, a basic skincare routine doesn’t quite cut it for everyday consumers. These days, effective, multitasking products that minimise wastage are also in demand.
“This trend has already been observed during the pandemic as people have an increasing interest in multifunctional products, focusing on quality over quantity, and our own customers getting more aware of the environmental impact of wastage of excessive packaging,” the Sulwhasoo Singapore Training Team says.
“An increasing number of our customers have participated in our recycling program indicating their interest in minimising waste,” the team shared.
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“The next-gen K-consumer is a smart beauty shopper,” Sharon Ahn, Beauty Trend Forecaster & Analyst of WGSN, declares. “Multitasking and flexible skincare, zero-waste solutions, [and] inclusivity… are emerging needs in the market. Beauty products that save time and reduce waste are a priority.”
Korean skincare trends 2023: The rise of clean, vegan beauty
The vegan cosmetics market is growing rapidly and gaining popularity among younger individuals. One thing Sharon and Jungmin can agree on is that vegan skincare is getting plenty of traction.
“Vegan skincare is on the rise due to social changes and growing awareness, even non-vegan consumers [have] started to [become] interested in this category,” Jungmin shares.
“As South Korea’s beauty industry becomes more conscientised, products that are both cruelty-free and without animal-derived ingredients are becoming the new standard,” Sharon weighs in.
“Inextricably linked with the sustainability movement, the demand for vegan beauty is driven by a future-conscious consumer group that is making everything sustainable and cruelty-free a prominent lifestyle
To fill the gap in sustainable skincare, Sulwhasoo has also made the effort to move towards refillable packaging.
“Sulwhasoo realised the need for sustainability in 2018, making efforts to reduce plastic use with more eco-friendly glass materials. We aim to have 100% of our hero products to be refillable/rechargeable by 2025,” the team reveals.
Korean skincare trends 2023: New naturally derived ingredients will surface
Since vegan beauty’s focus is on naturally derived ingredients, Sharon shares that “emerging brands are fronting unique-to-region ingredients through storytelling centred on local insights.”
According to her, “ancient ingredients are making a modern comeback through enhanced technologies and modern science.”
“An example is Plodica, the brand heroes its lotus culture extract derived from a 760-year-old lotus flower seed excavated from Haman County in the South Gyeongsang Province,” she points out.
“The vegan brand also boasts its jiaogulan extract discovery made in South Korea’s Ulleung Island, which flaunts a high concentration of active ingredients that help strengthen the skin barrier.”
Korean skincare trends 2023: Integrating potent ingredients into gentle formulas
In the past year, K-beauty brands have focused on producing efficacy-based skincare products that home in on ingredients such as vitamin C, AHA/BHAs, and retinol.
However, some of these star ingredients aren’t well-tolerated on more sensitive skin types. Thankfully, brands like Sulwhasoo aim to whisk potent ingredients into gentle formulas for more individuals to use.
“Sulwhasoo has managed to integrate retinol, a potential skin-irritating but effective anti-ageing ingredient into our Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum and Eye Cream while maintaining a gentle and effective formula,” the team shares.
“To make [retinol] safe and gentle for the eye area, Sulwhasoo incorporated Ginseng Flowers into the formula to prevent possible skin irritation and provide [a] soothing effect.”
Korean skincare trends 2023: At-home beauty devices are becoming more popular
For the past decade, the demand for at-home beauty devices has steadily increased in the realm of Korean beauty. The pandemic has certainly accelerated this trend, with at-home beauty tech innovations such as LED masks and ultrasonic facial cleansers now in demand globally.
“A lot of home beauty devices are enabling semi-clinic quality effects these days. So, home beauty devices became a hyped and trending beauty product,” Jungmin shares.
And what types of devices and machines are trending at the moment? According to Jungmin, EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation), home HIFU (High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound), RF (Radiofrequency) machines are hogging the spotlight.
Until recently, EMS was something that you could only find in clinics and salons, a near-magical mode of muscle firming that provides instant results. It works by expanding and contracting your muscles, so the result is a toned look with skin that’s tighter and smoother.
HIFU, on the other hand, uses ultrasound energy or laser beams to trigger the production of natural collagen in the body. This production of collagen then makes the skin around the face tighter and more supple.
Meanwhile, RF uses energy waves to heat the deep layer of your skin known as the dermis. This encourages the production of collagen for firmer, more youthful-looking skin.
Korean skincare trends 2023: Supporting the skin’s natural barrier
Strengthening our skin’s barrier only started trending two years ago, but it ought to be the core of one’s skincare routine.
“In 2023, enhancing the skin’s natural skin barrier and foundation will be our focus in taking better care of our skin,” Sulwhasoo’s team says.
“The skin barrier is responsible for blocking external stimuli (UV rays, pollutants & bacteria), retaining hydration, moisture, and nutrients in the skin, and responsible for creating healthy radiance,” the team continues. “Without a healthy skin barrier, our skin will not be able to protect itself and retain the nutrients provided in skincare.”
Sharon seconds the motion on barrier repair. “[It is] the antidote to the overuse of modern skincare and the long-term effects of active ingredients on the skin’s protective barrier,” she says.
“Sensitised skin is on the rise globally, with over 60% of women and 50% of men having some degree of sensitive skin that could potentially lead to inflammation and skin conditions such as rosacea,” she expounds.
Rich barrier-supportive creams aside, brands have also shifted their focus onto microbiome beauty to address the effects of overstimulated skin.
“Microbiome beauty has a rich history in fermented beauty, and this global trend will offer significant opportunity for brands to leverage on K-beauty’s knowledge and educate on the benefits and importance of a healthy skin microbiome, changing the way consumers look at these familiar ingredients,” Sharon suggests.
Jung Min is on the same page about the skin’s microbiome, sharing that probiotics and fermented ingredients are key to strengthening our skin barrier. If you’re looking to incorporate probiotics to your skincare routine, consider Jung Beauty’s Probiotic Eye Serum.
“In Ksisters, we have introduced Lavien Kombu Biome lineup and Jung Beauty Probiotics & Neuropeptide Power Booster Capsules that you can mix with any toner and serum in late 2022, and they have been bestsellers ever since [their] launch,” Jung Min recommends.
Korean skincare trends 2023: Niacinamide and ceramide will take the spotlight
Some ingredients like ceramide and niacinamide have been trending for a while and will continue to remain a staple as their benefits are undeniable and multi-fold, according to Sulwhasoo.
For the uninitiated, niacinamide is a version of vitamin B3, which can brighten the complexion, erase wrinkles, reduce water loss through the skin, improve elasticity, and fight inflammation – the Swiss Army knife in the beauty realm.
However, when used in high concentrations, niacinamide can cause skin irritation and redness.
When asked if there’s a percentage of niacinamide that’s considered too high, the Sulwhasoo team responded, “It all boils down to your skin’s needs. As long as you follow the usage instructions, you can benefit from the product be it from [over the counter], prescription, or dermatologist recommended. A general rule is to start with [a] lower concentration if you are new to the ingredient.”
“Ceramides have been popular in Korean skincare because it is an ingredient found in our skin naturally, making them effective yet easily absorbable,” the team adds. “Ceramides are also great for maintaining a healthy complexion and retaining moisture which is essential for the skin.”
Related read: 16 best ceramide serums to get in 2022 for hydrated skin